State approves bike tracks as part of Comm Ave. reconstruction

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BOSTON — State transportation overseers on Monday gave the go-ahead for a $20.4 million reconstruction along Commonwealth Avenue between Brookline and Boston, which will include building cycle tracks along the roadway.

About 35,000 vehicles travel the roadway every day, along with 27,000 passengers making use of four Green Line stops, and 30,000 pedestrians, according to MassDOT. About 3,000 cyclists used the road daily in 2014, according to the state.

State Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin said the stretch of roadway “had an inordinate amount of bicycle crashes” and the city worked with the state on the design.

The overhaul will do away with bike lanes between parked cars and traffic lanes, swapping them out for cycle tracks separated by curb between parked cars and the sidewalks – as is the case on much of Manhattan’s avenues and elsewhere.

Before-and-after cross-sections of typical areas of the avenue indicate that the three-lane outbound side of the street will lose a driving lane, bringing it down to two lanes on either side.

David Anderson, MassDOT’s deputy chief for design, said the cycle track will have “essentially eliminated that issue of dooring” – when a car door swings into the path of a bicyclist.

New traffic islands will also give pedestrians shorter distances to cross, according to Anderson’s presentation.

The federal government is set to contribute 80 percent toward the project, according to Boston Transportation Deputy Commissioner James Gillooly.

Bids were about 17 percent above the office estimate and Newport Construction had the winning $17.6 million bid. Contingencies, traffic police and other costs not included in the contract drive the total price up to $20.4 million, according to MassDOT.

Running a little over a half mile from the Boston University Bridge to Packard’s Corner, the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue is particularly busy with Green Line trolleys running down the middle of the road and bikes, cars and pedestrians jockeying over the remaining road and sidewalk.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors already okayed an $81.8 million replacement of the superstructure that brings the avenue over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The reconstruction of the roadway will also include water filtration to prevent pollutants from reaching the Charles River, and it will rebuild sidewalks to make them more accessible, according to the state. The project also includes transit signal prioritization – where transit vehicles are given preference at stop lights.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service